The course charted by Magnus and Elaine Egge during their 70-year marriage led them through war and into the ministry. It has now entered the unchartered waters of advancing age and declining health.
Gone are the days when Magnus could toss together a sermon or lead a Bible study on a moment’s notice. At 91, it has become difficult for him to track fast-moving conversations or television images. Neither of them drives anymore.
But Mac still reads and quotes the Bible, and their infirmities haven’t stopped them from serving an aging flock at the Fallbrook assisted living center where they now reside.
Elaine does most of the talking these days, and she has tackled the ministering role that her husband started in the mid-1950s and finished at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Fallbrook.
“I love the Lord and I think He’s still using me,” she said. “You witness by the way you live. There are a lot of people to be reached.”
The couple’s recent anniversary gave them the opportunity to reflect upon their seven decades together and their service to country, church and community.
“Good memories – that’s what you cherish when you get old,” Elaine told a visitor during lunch at Silvergate Fallbrook. “You get to live them over and over again.”
The couple’s paths initially crossed in high school in Minnesota. He played football and was tagged with the nickname “Mac.” His first job was as a baggage handler for Northwest Airlines, work that fueled his aspiration to become a Navy pilot.
With that goal in mind, he finished his pilot training, was commissioned as an ensign and proposed to his friend-turned-girlfriend.
They married during a church worship service on Halloween 1943. Elaine was 19 and working as a bank teller.
Mac was soon called to combat duty as a fighter pilot and Elaine travelled to stay with an aunt while Mac boarded an airplane for transport to Hawaii,
He was eventually assigned to an aircraft carrier that was part of a battle group poised to invade the Marshall Islands. Daily attacks were launched by the carrier’s aircraft, and Mac wrote of seeing “fear in the faces of our pilots in the ready room while we were being briefed.”
He also flew safer missions that included delivering medical supplies to outposts and relief stations. One of those assignments took Mac to the Solomon Islands, where he met a missionary who left him with a calling to pursue a career in the ministry.
After Mac returned to the states, he attended and graduated from college and a Lutheran seminary. He was ordained in Minnesota in 1952, and began his pastoral career at a pair of churches in Wisconsin.
Elaine studied to become a certified medical records librarian. She worked in that position at various facilities in Southern California.
The couple had five children by the time they returned to California in 1960 when he was the founding pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in San Diego. In 1985, Mac decided to take a break from his duties as head pastor, and opted to serve as an interim pastor for churches that needed temporary leadership.
During that period, he was asked to serve at Christ the King. The sanctuary’s balcony and narthex were added then, and the church library was named in honor of Pastor Egge.
Feeling a need to slow down, Mac lobbied to sell their house and move into Silvergate, where meals, housekeeping and other services would be provided.
That move proved to be premature for Elaine, and she persuaded Mac to move into a condominium. They decided to return to Silvergate in 2011, and Mac retired from Christ the King as pastor emeritus.
The Egges enjoy a quiet lifestyle that is punctuated by a range of activities as well as visits from relatives, friends and church members.
Their eldest child, Pam Grender, lives in Temecula. Their other children – Mark, Paul, Kaarn and Elaine Marie – live with their families in Altadena, Murphys, Reno and Orlando. The Egges also have nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The Egges say they have come to rely more on each other and to trust God with their health and circumstances.
“I think the Lord has been with us,” Elaine said. “He’s in control. As you get older, you know more and more that He has been there and has been leading us.”
And 70 years of togetherness has been icing on the cake, Mac said.
“She’s my better half,” Mac said. “When you’ve been married 70 years, you almost become one person.”